This professor was suspended for calling his students “disease vectors”. Now he is continuing.

A Ferris State University professor is suing the institution after being suspended for a now viral video for a class in which he calls his students “disease vectors”.

The University of Michigan placed tenured history professor Barry Mehler on administrative leave this month and said it had opened an investigation into the video, which university president David L. Eisler, had left him “shocked and appalled”.

by Mehler trial, filed Wednesday, says the video was part of “The Show,” an intentionally provocative performance Mehler created for her classes that features “strong themes, colorful language, and modern cultural references, to capture students’ attention and encourage them to think critically.

In the 14-minute video, released the day before spring classes start, Mehler goes over typical program information — like grades and plagiarism — in a forward-thinking way.

He plays the video in a headset, talks to the students as if he’s someone from another planet, and references the Covid-19 pandemic. As he lays out the class’s expectations, Mehler calls the students “disease vectors” and recommends using Zoom to contact him. He then addresses his plagiarism policy during a profanity segment based on a scene from the HBO show. Dead wood. At one point, he notes that students can complain to the dean if they want, but he’s about to retire and doesn’t care.

The lawsuit argues that Mehler’s colorful teaching style is well known and that he, and any critical remarks about the university’s Covid-19 protocols, is not grounds for suspension and is a violation of its First and 14th Amendment rights. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, seeks a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction against its suspension.

When asked to comment on the lawsuit, the university directed The Chronicle to his first statement on Mehler’s video, in which Eisler called it “profane, offensive and disturbing”.

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